SHERLOCK HOLMES is one of the irresistible forces of pop culture, representing a sort of golden triangle of high art (smart characters!), low art (murder!), and marketability (distinctive hats!). He's the Victorian Superman: a character that came to define his genre. Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential man of reason. So what happens when his reason begins to fail?
In Mr. Holmes, we follow a 90-year-old Sherlock—a once-famous detective, now overshadowed by his semi-fictional counterpart—as he reckons with the gradual decline of his body and mind. It's a heavy role, but in the hands of Ian McKellen, it's never less than a joy to watch. Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon, along with editor Virginia Katz and cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler, smoothly shift the narrative between three different timelines and varying levels of lucidity.
As Holmes, McKellen is magnificent. It's often argued that cinematic spectacle can't be truly experienced unless it's projected onto a 50-foot screen, but I'd argue that it is also worth employing that increased scale to watch the planes of McKellen's face shift, almost imperceptibly, from mood to mood. This isn't a big performance from McKellen, but it is, unquestionably, a skillful one.